The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that globally last April was, once again, the warmest on record. That makes it the 12th consecutive month of record heat . It was also the 4th hottest month of ALL months since record keeping started in 1880. April averaged almost 2 degrees higher than the 20th-century mean. Not surprisingy, average sea temperature also broke the record by about a half degree. That is a lot, given the enormous quantity of water in the oceans.
The changes in temperature change the ocean currents, which in turn changes the currents of the wind, which in turn changes the distribution of precipitation. While the American Southwest and even more so South-east Asia, South-east Africa and the Amazon experience deep and protracted drought, Europe is seeing a record rainfall, causing widespread flooding in France and Germany. It just ain’t fair!
In Tucson, the high temperature at the beginning of this week was already about 10º higher than at the same time last year. In the words of one NOAA scientist: records are not just being broken – they are being pulverized.
There is not much we can do to reverse the trend, at least not in time for Independence Day, so we are going to have to deal with it as best we can.
Here are some practical tips on staying cool:
Remember that light is heat and that cold air sinks and hot air rises, which, incidentally, appears to be not only a law of physics, but of politics as well.
In the morning,
• close windows and draw blinds and drapes.
•If you have venetian blinds, close them or angle them upwards.
•Set your thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you are home and 85 degrees when you are away. The infirm, elderly, and others who have trouble maintaining body temperature (such as diabetics), should set it to 72 to 75 degrees when home.
•Check that ceiling fans run counterclockwise, so that cold air is drawn up.
•Turn off lights, electrical devices and electronics when not in use.
•Run a fan across a bowl of ice to cool down.
•Hang wet sheets across the windows to cool down a room.
•Consider using a whole-house fan. It is a “natural evening air conditioner.”
•When the temperature drops, open windows and doors with screens to bring the inside temperature down.
• Choose cotton nightwear over nylon or silk; looser is better.
•Stick sheets in the freezer for a few minutes
•Put a cold water bottle in your bed
•Sleep close to the floor, where the air is cooler
•Drink 8 ounces of water before going to sleep
Don’t rely upon thirst as an indicator of your need for water; it’s not reliable in very high heat. The recommended daily fluid intake is about 100 fluid ounces for men and about 75 for women.
Liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar don’t count– these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
The warning signs of heat stroke are red, hot sweaty skin, cramps, lightheadedness or headaches, and fatigue.
If you see someone with these symptoms, call for an ambulance. Get the victim out of the heat. Loosen or remove clothing, wrap the person in wet towels or clothing, and apply ice packs around the neck, the groin and under the arms and knees (where the blood flow is greatest and closest to the surface). If the victim seems mentally impaired, which is common in this situation, do NOT try to make the person drink, cause they may choke on it.
And NEVER EVER EVER leave your child or your pet in the car, not even for a moment. Each year, 500 American kids and an untold number of pets die of heat stroke after being left in the car. Many establishments do not allow pets; in that case, tie them up outside with a bowl of water, or just leave them at home.